Tuesday, 18 June 2013


This is a somewhat different blog for here, but it was inspired by a friend stopping herself from ranting last night. You know who you are!

My friend has a strong dislike of onions. She gets teased about it (I tell her how I feel sorry for her husband) and she takes it in good humour, but there's something not funny about it. People who think they know better than she does, and try to sneak it into things they feed her, telling her it's only a little, it's red onion, it's sweet onion etc.

This annoys her, and it annoys me too.

I love onion. I put it in everything. I would waste away without it. But as in so many aspects of life, I am capable of sympathizing with someone whose tastes are different to mine, and I've written some pretty strongly worded stuff on my regular blog about this.

So, briefly, what is it about some folk that they can't get their effing heads out of their arses for ten seconds to understand the numbingly simple concept that tastes vary? I can feel my hackles rise every time a person insists that their tastes are somehow "right". It is food bigotry. It is also patently absurd.

I mention my friend specifically because dislike of onion to that extant is fairly unusual, although far from unheard of. If you dislike a food that is commonly disliked, you're fine. The mob say it's OK. If you profess to a dislike of liver, or green vegetables, or fish, etc, you are in so much company, you'll get away with it. Even those who like these things themselves will allow it.

For some reason if you dare to dislike a widely popular food, you have problems. Socially. Some people will get angry with you. Why?

Everybody is picky. Everybody has things they won't eat. The reason may not be taste. It may be texture (more common than you might think, actually), it may be ideals (Vegans fall into this category), it may be snobbery (the Queen likes Heinz ketchup, ACTUALLY), it may be fear (some health extremists won't eat lard). All sorts of reasons. But there are so few people that will eat ANYTHING, that we can largely ignore them.

In addition, people have preferences. Foods they would eat if that's all there was, but they'd really much rather have something else. This is so common as to be normal, which is a tricky word but you know what I mean.

No, when you claim somebody is picky it means one of two things.

The first meaning is actually incorrect, if you think about it. This is when it is used to describe somebody who eats a very narrow range of foods. It's common in children, but is often caused by parents (don't get me started) and they grow out of it. But some adults are very limited in what they eat. Using the term picky to describe them (and we do) is "off", really. It suggests careful choice, but this is more to do with lack of experience, unsophisication, lack of courage, laziness, and so on.

The second, and far more correct meaning, is someone who tastes things and having done so, declares them unsuitable for their palate. Why is that unreasonable?

We are not dealing with starving people here. If you are truly hungry, in the famine sense of the word, not the privileged modern, western sense, you'll eat anything.

But we are not starving. We can choose. In fact, eating something you don't enjoy is plain silly.

Would you poke yourself in the eye? Would you deliberately get a sunburn? Would you remove a layer of clothing when you're already cold? I could go on, but you think up your own examples of deliberately doing something unpleasant to yourself....it's bloody stupid, isn't it?

I don't walk on gravel in bare feet, if I can avoid it, so why would I eat something I find unpleasant? It makes no sense whatsoever.

Therefore, rather than deriding the validly picky, I say they are the WISER among us.

I know what it's like to sense the frustration coming off other people. Pretty much all the food items I actively dislike, to the point that the taste is so unpleasant to me that it puts me off my other food, or makes me nauseated, and generally miserable, are typically popular and enjoyed. Mention one of these and you will be teased. Mention several and even the kindest folk start to get irritated by your pickiness.

And when they show their frustration, and call you names, what they are really saying is "Why can't you just be like me?" An attitude we frown upon in other social and political areas. An attitude of ignorance and immaturity. It's rude. It's uncaring. It's ignorant.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Rib Sauce

Reprint of old blog:

So the first few times I used rib sauce from a jar, but you know how I hate to do things like that and Rhiannon developed a home-made sauce. Then Sian took that recipe and played with it, and made a hotter and rather more Oriental-tasting version. Recently Tom has developed it a bit more. I have spoken to a few people about this sauce and they always seem rather shocked, no idea why, but it's good.

3 cups ground tomatoes/passata
1 small can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 teaspoons crushed garlic
3 tablespoons onion powder
Dash mustard powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cayenne powder
2 tsps Thai chili sauce
1 tsp chili powder

Sian had included a squirt of Hoi Sin, but we ran out. It seemed to work without.

Sunday, 16 June 2013


The coldest, wettest spring as far as I can recall, since we came to Canada 20 years ago.

Many of the seeds I started in May rotted instead of germinated, and I've had to start over on quite a few things. This is in direct contrast to last year, when I had an early start to the season and was well ahead. It's frustrating, but at least we don't rely on it to eat.

We do have radishes ready to eat however, and lettuces I shall use, even though they are small, because if they get any bigger, for some reason on our soil they get bitter, long before they bolt. I pretty much treat lettuce as mesclun. Spinach could also be used if I was desperate, as later sowings will take their place.

Some of the seed that failed may have been too old. Some seed stores better than others, and the cucumber seed seem to be no good this year, not a single one came up. Was it the weather or the seed? I really don't know, but it's too late to try again with those as the crop won't be ready before the frosts in September. This is a shame as home-made pickles are vastly superior, but we may have enough to last until next season if we are sparing with them.

So, I had a great day yesterday, got lots of weeding done and put various seeds in, but today it is raining hard. Once it dries out, I'll do more weeding as it's easier in wet soil, but I do get filthy. Martin planted some more trees, our goal is 99.

All the sunflowers I have grown are at exactly the point they should be to be on target for flowering for the wedding in September. But I'll sow a few more seeds in case the forecast hot summer brings them on too early. I'm assuming everything else that's running late will catch up then, but it'll probably mean duff broccoli (again). I am experimenting with growing a few "quick to bolt" plants in the shade of the runner beans, see if that helps.

For those of you who like flower photos, here are the "portraits" I took yesterday.

I have a passion for lupins, they take a whole year to flower but's worth the wait, and they will flower 3-4 years more if you're lucky. This apricot colour goes so well with these:

The "blue" is close to the wild type, and I am trying to get them established as wild here, no luck so far. We also have a few of a darker shade:

Plus yellow:

They all came from the same packet of seeds, some years ago now, and altogether they have a distinct "ice cream" colour palette.

We have some large poppies:

The flowers are short-lived but pretty spectacular, about 6 inches across when fully open. Another thing I'm trying to naturalize, and will keep trying.

So sign of the row of three aquilegia that were beside the poppies last year, but a young one has popped up nearby, and will flower later this week.

But my favourite right now is this blue iris:

The first of well over 20 blooms (I lost count, which is fantastic) on a well established group, all from one original rhizome about 6 years ago.

Less showy, but still adorable is this verbena, and I wish I had more.

The shade garden at the side of the house is coming along slowly. We have a foxglove in full bloom:

And some fancy pansies:

With promise of more to come soon.

By the time I photographed the lilac arch yesterday the light was going, but the blooms will come out more soon anyway, so I'll take another shot later in the week, but you get an idea of it here:

The fragrance is pretty heady, and my potting tables are right behind that, so I get to enjoy it a lot. I also need to prune out inside the archway again too, it keeps trying to fill in. My next project is to plant something where you see brickwall through the arch, that flowers at the same time and is a contrasting colour. Something in the orange range.

Michael created a small flower garden in a raised bed beside the deck. Raised beds here are a magnet for my barn cats, who think they are public washrooms, so when he'd finished putting in the seeds and a few plants we started in pots, he covered the area in cayenne. They hate that.

After this heavy rain we'll go back and put some more down, and will keep doing so through the summer as the flowers grow. Morning glory at the back, sweet peas at the side, and cosmos over the rest. Again, they may flower too soon, but we are aiming for September.

I had some casualties from the last frost, mostly zinnias and antirrhinums, which was a bummer, so now I have gaps. I have things in pots to fill in (I never take any chances) but also as usual, there are a few pretty weeds (viola tricolor, for example) that I just leave be, and they help out. No nigella came back this year as self-seeded volunteers, the first time in ten years, likewise marigolds. I think the weird spring messed with them.

I'm sure I've forgotten something, but thats most of the report, and I'll catch up next week.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Meatloaf Story

I did not grow up with meatloaf, and so I don't have the whole "comfort food" thing there. I tried it experimentally MANY times as an adult, and hated it every time. I tried many recipes, some given by well-meaning people who insisted I just needed a better recipe. Hated all of them, and came to the conclusion that I simply didn't like meatloaf. And I was OK with that, it's not like I needed to eat it.

For some reason about 5 years ago, I decided to try again. It was a series of accidental things. I had made a huge batch of sweet and sour sauce for Chinese food. I don't like most sweet and sour sauces (too sweet, SURPRISE!) so I have, over the years, perfected my own. It's just sweet enough, but not like having an ice cream topping sauce, which the commercial ones remind me of.  I had a lot leftover, and for some reason, I don't remember how or why, I used this on a version of the meatloaf recipe Rhiannon gave me.

And I freakin' loved it.

So here's the meatloaf:

2lbs LEAN ground beef
2 eggs (extra large, or use 3)
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced 
1/2 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs**
1 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 tbslp dried parsley
1 tblsp garlic powder
1 tbslp onion powder
4 large cloves minced garlic

All SMUSHED together well, and pushed down hard into baking dish. 

And here's the sauce:

1 tbslp onion powder
3/4 tblsp garlic powder
1 tbslp Maggi*
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp mustard powder
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar

Pour sauce over top, and bake. We often cook it in larger batches, and the time required varies by shape/size of container, but you'll need at least half an hour at 175C. 

This will SLICE, not slop. I mean, what's the point of a "loaf" that you need a spoon to serve it with? 

*Maggi is a commercial food additive which is mostly monosodium glutamate, a modern version of a seaweed extract from antiquity in the Far East, and is not the poison that some flakes claim it to be. Don't get me started. Still, some people claim to be sensitive to it, whatever, so a good substitute is soy sauce. 

**I use Aurora brand, there are other good brands, I don't think much of Pastene, but it's easy to make your own, just put some bread in a food processor, until you have crumbs. For every cup of crumbs add: 1/2 tsp each salt, pepper, parsley, oregano or marjoram, garlic powder, and onion powder, and a whole teaspoon of finely grated parmesan. 

Some more alert readers will notice an odd combination of Italian Breadcrumbs and Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce. Yeah. I know. But I love it. You could always use plain breadcrumbs if the idea scares you.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Egg Separating in Four Easy Steps

I was asked about this recently and tonight we had to do some for a soufflé, so Tom agreed to demonstrate for a video. You are very honoured, because he normally runs a mile from cameras. Anyway, I hope this helps, seeing it done by a normal person (mind you, with Tom I use the term loosely) rather than a chef (although I would never be surprised if this one ends up cooking for a living......) to show it is not really as difficult as they'd have you believe. Don't be intimidated by eggs:)

Step 1: Crack the eggs as you normally do, but gently. Just enough to break the shell.

Step 2: Pull it apart, so that the contents are in one half.

Step 3: With your hand holding back the yolk, pour the white into a bowl. Some are more tenacious than others, you'll see one here that needed a bit more coaxing.

Step 4: Drop the yolk into a separate bowl.

There. What's hard about that?

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Broccoli Salad

You've all had this at a party, maybe you make it at home, but it's one of those things that gets varied a lot. Some of the time it's just because of what you have on hand. I'm going to give you the proportions, that I think are PERFECT, while showing just how varied the ingredients can be. Of course, after you've made it this way, you add more or less sugar etc. But for a first timer, follow this to get a feel for it.

First make the dressing. This is sweet, creamy, and vinegary. It's especially interesting because I'm a weirdo who dislikes sweet, but I have discovered over the years that if the sweetness is offset with certain things (in this case vinegar) then I find it pleasing. I wish a food chemist could explain this, but as yet.......

So, you need:

1 cup mayo (olive oil based is best)
1/2 cup sugar*
2 tablespoons vinegar*

It's important that the sugar dissolves fully, so stir well and prepare ahead of time.

Then you need:

2 heads fresh broccoli cut up very small
1 red onion, finely diced*
1/2 pound bacon cooked until crisp, cooled and crumbled*
3/4 cup raisins*
3/4 cup nuts, chopped small*

The Variations:

Instead of red onion you can use green onion or shallots, but red onion is best.

You can use walnuts, pecans or almonds, or to avoid nuts many people substitute sunflower seeds, it is VERY good, and this is a good choice for catering, when you don't know about guest allergies.

I have used dried cranberries instead of raisins, and it's very good.

In addition, a vegetarian can omit the bacon, and this will also cut down on fat/calories. I have also used chopped salami when out of bacon. Very different but still good.

You can use white or brown sugar, it will change the flavour a bit, obviously. Try white first.

I have used several different vinegars, plain white, malt, white wine, red wine, rice, cider, and even raspberry. All good, all slightly different, but try white first as it's the simplest.

So, mix all that together with the dressing in a bowl.

Make this at least a few hours ahead for the flavours to meld.

Questions? Here or on FB, as you wish.